20 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Help Themselves Think Differently

Want to help yourself think differently? Well, it’s not always natural or easy to be creative and think outside the box as a business owner due to fear of risk-taking, desire for perfection and clinging on to old ways of doing things. So how do you ignite your creative self and foster that in your team? It’s not necessarily hard and can be achieved.

Here's how entrepreneurs and business owners help themselves think differently.

#1- Through a personal challenge

Photo Credit: Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa

As a behavioral and management psychologist, I challenge myself to think differently several times a week usually each morning on my five-mile walk with my dog, Simon. I define “thinking differently” as taking an idea, a random thought, or even something existent and stirring into the mix the unique combination of business intelligence and reengineering along with a creative or innovative spin. My personal challenge is, “Can I sell it?” that is, can I develop a step-by-step strategy to market that idea. Allow me to share a few successful examples.  I conduct trade show training with the client’s main goal of developing qualified leads, not just badge scans or business cards. How do I attract people to a booth? Rather than giving out pens or some other ad specialty, the Plan A which most companies cannot afford, is renting a baby elephant. My more affordable Plan B is to place a five gallon aquarium filled with water on a table with the framed sign below. Note the crowd looking for the fish.

Thanks to Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa

#2- Emotional intelligence and self-awareness

Photo Credit: Sanjay Malhotra

Growing one’s emotional intelligence is an excellent way for leaders to allow themselves to think differently in business. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify your emotions, as well as those of people around you, and in my experience, it has helped me to form better problem-solving skills and inspire others. To grow your emotional intelligence there are a couple of practices I suggest leaders start to apply in their routine. The first is to fight the notion of perfectionism. Many aspects of perfectionistic thinking are not beneficial learning tools and impede your ability to become better. Secondly, I suggest leaders practice empathetic self-awareness. Self-awareness is the key to understanding the extent of what you’re capable of, and when something falls outside of those limits, understanding what you can do to improve next time. Growing your emotional intelligence and implementing this thinking into your business will allow you to see business matters in a different light, allowing you to find solutions you may have never thought of before for example, seeing disagreements as a positive situation for collaboration as opposed to a
negative situation.

Thanks to Sanjay Malhotra, Clearbridge Mobile!

#3- Reading

Photo Credit: Michael Stahl

I read a good amount of books and articles on different industries and products. I like to learn about what others are doing in their space and then I think about how or if it might be applicable to the work I do or our company does. I think it's important to make a concerted effort to do this and think outside your comfort zone, if you will.

Thanks to Michael Stahl, HealthMarkets!

#4- Critical thinking and brainstorming

Photo Credit: Murtaza Hussain

I've worked in multiple companies and got the opportunity to work with some of the best entrepreneurs. All this time, I used to wonder what separates them from the ordinary. Every time I used to come up with an idea, my boss, would have already thought it through. Not that he meant to demean me in some way. But that's that. Research is knowledge. We all complain that we are still stuck with so little information, but the fact is that we never really tried to research anything new. Warren Buffett once said that he spends 80% of time reading and collecting information and only 20% of time working. Not just the thought process, but at the same time, my boss would delight me with so much information about the same idea that it would make me feel stupid to come up with it in the first place. To have a superficial idea about anything seems good. We all get to possess that knowledge after spending a reasonable amount of time in our respective industries, but to have a vision, rational and smart thinking makes a person an entrepreneur.

Thanks to Murtaza Hussain, BizProspex!

#5- Diving with bull sharks

Photo Credit: Rune Sovndahl

Тhe most thrilling encounter I’ve had so far is diving with bull sharks without a cage. There I was 200m away from the beach, 29m deep underwater surrounded by those fascinating predators. The first thought that came to me was “this beast can eat me in one bite”. This experience changed the way I think and manage my business in stressful situations. Now, when meeting with investors – the sharks of the corporate world, I am dauntless as they cannot literally eat me.“

Thanks to Rune Sovndahl, Fantastic Services!

#6- Writing down ideas

Photo Credit: Will Ellis

I’ve found that the best way to think differently in business is by becoming an idea machine. This is an idea that first came to me by way of the author, James Altucher. The idea is to make yourself so susceptible to thinking of ideas that they are always coming to you. This can’t just happen to you. You have to make it happen. The way you do it is by once a day writing down ten new ideas and not stopping no matter how long it takes. The ideas can be about anything but I keep them within the technology and security focus. I’ve found that by doing this every day, I have ideas coming to me all day that are original and fresh. This allows me to think differently because I have original ideas coming to me all day.

Thanks to Will Ellis, Privacy Australia!

#7- Remaining curious

Photo Credit: Yi-Hsian Godfrey

For me, to think differently is to think creatively. And I fuel my creativity by remaining curious about people, behavior and experiences. I often look outside my industry for case studies as having limited knowledge about a business, its target audience and how experiences should be forces me to ask more why questions (why did they roll out that product, why that positioning? etc.). That thinking has often given me a new perspective on our business and strategic direction.

Thanks to Yi-Hsian Godfrey, Apiari!

#8- Real-time resiliency

Photo Credit: Susan Peppercorn

A strategy I use for thinking differently as a business owner and CEO is one that helps me avoid catastrophic thinking. When I'm meeting a new high-profile client or have to give a presentation to a large audience and start to think that I won't win the engagement or might bomb the presentation, I use the technique of real-time resiliency. Instead of succumbing to the fear, I use evidence to counter my negative assumptions by saying, It's not true that the client won't hire me because I've won ten clients with similar profiles who are very satisfied with the results I've helped them produce. As for the presentation, I've given it six times before to rave reviews, so it's not true that the audience won't like me. Using evidence to counter catastrophic thoughts has stopped me from spiraling out of control and reminds me of my capabilities.

Thanks to Susan Peppercorn, Positive Workplace Partners!

#9- Borrowing brilliance

Photo Credit: Shaunda Necole

Thinking differently in business doesn't mean re-inventing the wheel. It's quite the opposite—more like following the leader. Because sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. Borrowing brilliance is what I call it—taking queues from other industries not related to your field. An example would be a restaurant taking notes from an airline company's marketing playbook. Stepping away and looking through different industry lenses can prove useful. One of my company's best marketing campaigns was a new product launch and slogan inspired by a high-end retailer on the Las Vegas strip. Unaligned with my business of selling hair bows for cheerleaders. The brilliance borrowed helped to level up my brand from a core $8 product to higher-end hair bows upwards of $30! This market strategy change was the launchpad for becoming the first business in our industry to secure a distribution deal with Amazon.

Thanks to Shaunda Necole

#10- Consulting my team

Deborah Sweeney

I am a business owner who finds one of the best ways I'm able to think differently is to consult my team. I like to get their feedback and ideas on what we can do to punch up our existing offerings or switch gears with marketing strategies. There's a saying that many hands make light work and I believe the same is true of many minds. Great minds do not think alike. Everyone brings something new and fresh to the table that is always welcome!

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney,!

#11- Journaling daily and creating lists of negative thoughts

Photo Credit: Maryann Mathai

As a licensed psychotherapist who's always worked at nonprofits, it was easy to feel guilty or inauthentic when I began my own practice. Over the last few months as a business owner, I've learned to put into practice what I teach others daily – to take stock of the automatic negative thoughts that creep in & reframe them into more positive, realistic statements about myself. When you're starting a new business, it's common for there to be a large gap between what you know about yourself vs. what you feel about yourself. How many times have you known you are good enough but felt inadequate or inexperienced? Journaling daily and creating lists of negative thoughts to challenge helped me narrow the gap and decrease the internal conflicts that arose. Instead of thinking I'm a fraud, I reframe with the truth, I”m knowledgeable about my specialty because I've treated hundreds of clients, trained other clinicians in this specialty, and have been promoted into positions of leadership at previous jobs. I've found that when I do this consistently, my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are in alignment. This practice helps me operate my business from a place of confidence instead of fear.

Thanks to Maryann Mathai, Therapy With Maryann!

#12- Proving oneself wrong

Photo Credit: Ollie Smith

In my opinion, proving yourself wrong can be a powerful motivator to think differently. During times when you might be exhausted or stressed from working excessive hours, force yourself to take one more step. It might be sending out yet another email marketing campaign to prospective clients, despite your ‘inner voice' insisting you will not gain an additional customer. On every occasion you prove your ‘inner voice' wrong, you train your brain to highlight your capabilities and not your limitations. This form of positive reinforcement does work – give it a try!

Thanks to Ollie Smith, Energy Seek!

#13- Listening

Photo Credit: Shawree Johnson

I help myself think differently in business by listening to people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. When talking to someone who comes from a higher economic background the way they think, perceive themselves, and see the world is completely different than someone who comes from a lower economic background. Listening to the differences in their lives and trying to find the similarities allows me to think differently and craft my articles into stories that will touch their emotions. It allows me to service my readers better by being able to take an external problem like weight loss, and reaching them internally and emotionally by crafting a story that draws on their background and life’s experiences.

Thanks to Shawree Johnson, Mind Body Spirit Bliss!

#14- Travelling

Photo Credit: Yaz Purnell

To change the way I think, I have to change the way I’m living. For me, that means travel. Being location independent, I know that I’m extremely fortunate to be able to work from anywhere in the world, and I use this unique opportunity to move around and encourage myself to think out of the box for my business. New external influences force us to think differently, see life from new perspectives, and meet people from a huge variety of different backgrounds, and this constantly enables me to view my business from new angles and think of new ideas for growth and expansion. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone struggling to be more creative with their business, it would be to keep moving, and keep allowing change into your life – only then can the things in your control change, too.

Thanks to Yaz Purnell, The Wallet Moth!

#15- Looking at a situation from different angles

Photo Credit: Mike Stiles

I instinctively approach thinking about my business the same way I approach developing the content I make for clients, and the way I’ve always approached writing for video, radio, theater, etc. The obvious path or idea is going to come to you first. That’s the idea you might want to immediately dismiss so you force yourself to think more creatively. Go at least two more thoughts or ideas or possibilities beyond the obvious, and that will make you look at the situation at hand from other angles. The obvious is seductive because it’s fast and easy. Creativity in business will only come from thinking like an artist and opening the mind to what most others will fail to see.

Thanks to Mike Stiles, Brand Content Studios!

#16 – Learning from learners

Photo Credit: Dr. Tiffany Eurich

One of the best strategies for transforming my thinking is to cultivate the habits of a lifelong learner. I’ve found some of the best thought processes come from observing industries unrelated to mine. For instance, I’ve learned bucketloads about successful client experiences from the dental and automotive industry, about efficient workflow from photographers and other creative entrepreneurs, and collaboration that yields major results from the food and garden blogging world. And one of the best ways I’ve found to transform my thinking: learn from learners. Spend a couple hours with a college student studying your industry, and their observations will knock all the, “we’ve always done it this way,” tendencies right out from under you (bonus: you’ll create raving fans and you’ll have a chance to impact the next generation of industry leaders). I make a point to schedule in new learning opportunities on a regular basis. I keep a digital board for cataloging and prioritizing the new areas I want to pursue, and enter them into my schedule weeks, months, and sometimes a year in advance, to make sure they become a non-negotiable part of my work life.

Thanks to Dr.Tiffany Eurich

#17- Mentorship

Photo Credit: Reuben Yonatan

Mentorship has helped me broaden my horizons at numerous points throughout my career as an entrepreneur and CEO. While I certainly seek out mentors with insight into the industry I operate in, I also look for those who have been successful in a completely different vertical, hoping that cross-pollination will bring fruitful revelations beyond what would be possible if I remained isolated in my own little bubble.

Thanks to Reuben Yonatan, GetVOIP!

#18- Two ways

Photo Credit: Anna Belov

In challenging business and personal situations, I ask myself two questions: “Would I be proud of this decision if it goes viral tomorrow?” and “Would I be happy with this decision if I multiply the outcome by 10?” The first question helps me reason since I have to put myself in the other person's shoes and keep my emotions under control. The second question helps me ensure my business is profitable. In my experience, small things matter and add up over time. If I keep adding positives and keep subtracting negatives, I will inevitably achieve the desired result.

Thanks to Anna Belov, 50 Doors!

#19- Mindset change

Photo Credit: Jessi Beyer

As an entrepreneur, I often get stuck in the mindset of believing that the way that things have been done before is the way that I have to do them, as well. When I recognize that I'm in that mindset, I often turn to my goal board or my favorite motivational quotes and remind myself that no one ever made history by doing exactly what everyone else does. In short, I've found that the best way to help yourself think differently is to first acknowledge that your pattern of thinking isn't productive, then turn to whatever source of inspiration you use to remind yourself that your path doesn't have to look the same as everyone else's. Finally, the last tip I'd give is that some days, you just get in a bad and unoriginal mindset. That's okay; beating yourself up over it won't help. Sometimes you just need a reset so you can get back to thinking differently tomorrow.

Thanks to Jessi Beyer, Jessi Beyer International, LLC!

#20- Several ways

Photo Credit: Jessica Glazer

I’m in an extremely competitive field.. recruiting and as an entrepreneur my brain is always flooding with ideas. The first thing I do is ignore the white noise. I do not watch what other companies are doing as then one’s mind can go down a rabbit hole. I write down my goals what I want to see accomplished and sometimes they get scratched or moved down a priority list but I focus on what I want and find ways to make it happen. I bounce ideas off to other entrepreneurs. Listen to what they are doing and learn from them to see if it’s something that can make sense for my business. There are many people out there who want to say ´it’s a bad idea,´ don’t do it’ and that’s okay. I just remember this is business, my business and I take absolutely nothing personally.

Thanks to Jessica Glazer, MindHR!

What ways do you help yourself think differently? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

Related Articles


  1. Just from reading the responses, proves there is no right or wrong way to train a cat.
    I think the main focus should be what most have stated; the way I fuel my creativity. The only thing I can add to the 20 replies is garbage in garbage out. To quote Dr. Joe Dispenze, if we don’t input new experiences then all we’re doing is recycling out information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button